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Tear Jerker: BioShock
The whole game's premise, if you consider it. The best thing to happen to the adults of Rapture, formerly some of the best and brightest the world had who left everything on the surface to participate as part of Ryan's dream? They went into hiding if they somehow got lucky. Most died, became insane, or became Big Daddies.
It's even worse if you consider the fate of the children. The Little Sister thing is horrifying enough, but at least the girls got to survive if you Rescued them. The little boys and other girls? Yeah, ponder that.
Really, the Splicers in general are a sympathetic bunch when they're not trying to kill you. All of them probably had lofty dreams and people that they cared for before their minds deteriorated.
The good ending for BioShock. If you kill the Little Sisters, you kill the ones that save you and wage war on the surface world with an army of splicers. But if you save them, you take them to the surface, where they live happy, normal lives, and are with you at your deathbed. It's such a marvelous and human ending, especially after all the violence and Body Horror of the preceding game.
Andrew Ryan: "A man chooses! A slave obeys!" and the fact that you really couldn't stop hitting him.
Atlas' family being blown up by Andrew Ryan hits hard. Of course, when Atlas/Fontaine double crossed you, and you were forced to kill Andrew Ryan...
"I really wound you up with that wife and child bit: 'Oh, me poor Moira. Ah, me wee baby Patrick.' Maybe one day I'll get me a real family. They play well with the suckers.
Listening to Masha's parents sob over her on the audio diaries was bad enough. Getting into their room and finding their two corpses curled up on the bed together next to a picture of their daughter and a bottle of pills that they had apparently overdosed on was heartbreaking.
There's another apparent suicide scene in the game, in Mercury Suites. There's just something about the fact that after downing the jar of poison, they apparently sat down to watch one last TV show together as a family before they succumbed to it. Oh, and by the way, God only knows if the kids actually realized they were taking poison.
Near the beginning, you see a woman cooing to a baby in a crib. Once she sees you, she'll attack you, and you have to kill her. When that was done, I looked into the crib and saw that there was no baby in the crib. There never was.
It's been a while since I last played the game, but I think if you kill her before she sees you you find out that the "baby" is actually her revolver.
This section is even more horrifying than that - listen to what she says carefully (subtitles are your friend). She's not cooing. She's mourning. 'Baby and me, BABY AND ME'
Something even more horrifying: 'baby and me' implies the baby has also become a Splicer Yikes.
Sure, Tenenbaum might have had a dodgy past, but even before she mentions being involved in experiments in a prison camp, you have to realize something: if she was a 'Kraut' of Jewish descent, she probably was separated from her own family before being sent there. It somehow makes everything happening with the Little Sisters worse, especially since she grows such a pure devotion to them. Even then, listening to her narrate her maternal revelations is so moving. And then, if you didn't save ENOUGH Little Sisters for the good ending, but didn't kill enough for the bad, the fact that she sounds so sad while explaining your descent into spliced-up maddness makes it seem like she thought she could've saved Jack, given that she was Fontaine's agent for buying the embryo off of his birth mother.
More specifically, it was Tenenbaum's 'Hatred' audio log. At the end, right before she cuts the recording, you hear her voice break followed by the briefest of sobs.
On the topic of female characters in BioShock with sad stories, Diane McClintock. Her fiancee, Ryan, slowly goes crazy and probably spends more intimate moments with Jasmine Jolene, anyway. She's eventually left alone after the New Year's attack ruins her face (and from what the audio diaries and the 'ghost' outside his door imply, Steinman didn't help). Then she goes on to work for Atlas (and it sort of sounded like she was starting to fall for him too, or was at least very loyal) but she walks in on his longest con and he kills her before she can blab his true identity. It's sad because she seemed so normal; there was no hint of going insane. She was just a sad woman caught up in a nightmare. She might be the closest to The Woobie aside from the Little Sisters.
Finding Jasmine Jolene's body on a second playthrough and working out that Jack is her child. Now that was a player punch.
Sullivan's diaries are definite tearjerkers, especially once you start finding the ones where he's given orders to assassinate Anna Cullpepper simply because Sander Cohen hates her music. Then there's the one you can find in Cullpepper's apartment, where a broken Sullivan talks about finding a blanket Cullpepper was knitting, and how he took it, because it just didn't seem right, leaving it unfinished....
"Mr Bubbles... please, please wake up! Please!"
And, in the sequel's demo, a happy tearjerker "Mr. Bubbles? You're all better!"
One of the recording late-game involves Fontaine testing out the "Would you kindly" code on the Player Character as a child. How? By forcing him to strangle his own puppy dog.
Even worse when you listen closely to the Player Character. The kid clearly knows what the keywords are, and it's killing him inside to have no choice but to obey, his body essentially wrestled from his control to do such a horrible act.
Finding the Skinner boxes the Little Sisters were subjected to.
In the first game, go to the Little Sister Orphanage. In one of the girls' rooms, there are two gravestones drawn on the wall. One says "Mommy" the other says "Daddy".
The Little Sisters Orphanage itself is a Tearjerker. It's an orphanage, parents probably gave-up their children because they thought their child would have a better life. Instead the girls that survived the process (and some didn't) were turned into Little Sisters. You even hear advertisements for it over Rapture's PA saying 'Give your little girl the life she deserves.' No child deserves that life...
The Pigskin Splicer's dialogue in the first BioShock is downright wrenching. While most of the Splicers are just drifting through their own little worlds in between bouts of psychopathic rage, the Pigskin spends most of his time weeping and begging to have ten seconds inside his own head, while occasionally hallucinating that his parents have come back to pick him up. When you evade him, he pleads for you to show yourself, because he doesn't want the others to kill him.
Especially since his lines seem to imply that he was pressured into/convinced to take plasmids to 'enhance his game,' several of them trying desperately to convince "Mr Ryan" and possibly others that he's "good enough." Not to mention a few seem to be addressing a girlfriend and may veer back into frightening.
"Uh... Baby? I'm... I'm all calmed down now, okay? So... just open the—"
"Hey, c'mon— Joey's gone, all right? You... You can come out now..."
In the novel BioShock: Rapture, Bill McDonagh's goodbye to his wife and daughter, Elaine and Sophie as they're being allowed to escape from Rapture, with him getting left behind. It wasn't helped by the fact that it's a fatherly sort of thing to say.
Bill's daughter looked over her shoulder at him. Bill tried to fill his mind with the last sight he would have of her.
"Good-bye, love!" he called, waving once. "Your old dad loves you!" Then Elaine pulled Sophie along with her, through a doorway, and out of his sight...
The disintegration of Rapture was a tearjerker by dint of being a Foregone Conclusion: Yet it starts out so optimistically, with people being proud and awestruck that they built a city under the sea. Then begin the leaks both literal and metaphorical, women forced into prostitution because they can't find any other niche in Rapture and can't get away, the growing prevalence of both Splicers and firearms and finally the death of McDonagh, who was part of Rapture from the start and probably its biggest believer, being shot in exchange for letting his family go free. It's as if that moment marks Rapture's total conversion into the hellhole of the first game.
At this point, you can't help but to feel bad for Andrew Ryan. Watching his descent into paranoia as his paradise crumbled was one thing, but he can't even be there to watch his goons carry out his order to execute McDonagh, as if he's aware that this was the last person left who had trusted him and had been trusted.
A very, very bittersweet tearjerker was that Ryan normally crucified and tortured people who tried to escape, but made his goons, who were also McDonagh's friends, shoot him in the head instead because he couldn't bear to see him die.
"Nyet-he understands better than you think." Karlosky said. "A lot of others here, he watched them die. But...he can't be here for this. He told me, He couldn't stand to watch you die, Bill. Not good friend like you..."
Bill smiled. He never heard the gunshot that killed him.
Sander Cohen. On the surface, he seems like a goofy sociopath with no redeeming traits, what with him turning people into statues and ordering you to kill other artists just because he doesn't like their artwork, but listen to his audio diary "The Wild Bunny". It starts off as an innocent poem about being a little bunny... but then quickly escalates into loud, screaming sobs. Just the thought of how this madman is trapped in his own mind, and is possibly well aware of his own madness (the "Ears", as he calls it), but try as he might he can't escape it, certainly makes those white masks everyone wears all the more symbolic...
Poor Baby Jane. Even before she became a splicer, she had a tragic life (being a failed actress and having to work as a prostitute). There's also one scene early in the first game where you see her sobbing over a baby-sized coffin.
It's even worse in a Easter Egg in Bioshock 2, if you look through a crack in the Pink Pearl. You'll see Baby Jane dragged off by a depraved Breadwinner splicer-then there's the sound of a dress ripping and screams. And there is nothing you can do to help her at all.
"Know that you are my greatest disappointment." Yes, Andrew Ryan has not only accepted that Jack is his son, and in this realizes that he could never kill his own progeny, but has also ranked him as a bigger disappointment than Rapture. That stings. The whole sequence becomes a bit tearjerking once you know the truth. Ryan yells and screams at Atlas like he always has, but he lowers his tone almost to that of speaking with a child when talking to Jack. It's either sad because Ryan knows he is faced with the dilemma of being killed by or killing his own (possibly four year old) son, or it's sad because the father Jack never knew is forcing him to assist in his suicide. Either way when the horror wears off you're going to be depressed.
The Little Sisters themselves. When the sea slugs that produce ADAM were discovered, they didn't produce it in large enough quantities for practical use. Only when they were implanted into a host do they produce neatly thirty times more ADAM. However, the only viable hosts were little girls, between five and eight years old. As violence increased in Rapture, they were genetically altered and conditioned to harvest ADAM from the corpses around the city, feeding it back into the system and becoming the backbone of Rapture's entire society. When it got bad enough, Ryan's men started going door to door and taking them, saying they were going to "save Rapture." These children were stolen from their families, altered so that they live in a peaceful fantasy world, compelled to seek out and harvest ADAM, able to feel pain but unable to die, and the only things in the world they can talk to are their mindless protectors. They will either die when the slug inside them is harvested, go completely insane when they grow up, or be left completely aware of the horrors of the city, helpless without their healing factor, if they're "rescued." And it's your decision if they survive the ordeals in both games or not.